The military-industrial complex and its clients sprinkled throughout both political parties seem to have decided that the next place we need to go and kill people (or at least sell weapons to help others kill people) is Ukraine, assuming that Russia decides to slice off a section of its former province.
Good for them. But before the rest of us get involved in yet another war that no one intends to win, it might be worthwhile to consider a few features of the landscape.
There is no nice way to say this, but the idea of Ukraine as a nation-state is relatively new. In the 350 years since the Eternal Peace Treaty (actual name) was signed in 1686, Ukraine has been either a vassal state or province of Russia. Ukraine has been independent only since 1991, and that independence happened only as a consequence of the United States and its allies winning the Cold War.
Like all people living near great powers, the Ukrainians have suffered from the proximity. Ireland has suffered for 1,000 years in the shadow of England. Our own neighbors — Canada and Mexico — do not consider living on the same continent with the United States an unmixed blessing.
However, misfortunes of geographical fate do not mean that we should wander into conflict. In the long sweep of American history, no serious person has ever suggested we assist Ireland in gaining or preserving her independence from England. There’s a good reason for that. We’re Americans — not Irish and certainly not Ukrainians. Our own problems are sufficient to themselves.
Nevertheless, folks ranging from President Biden to Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Texas Republican, have made it clear (well, sort of clear in the case of Mr. Biden) that they intend to view any crossing of the Ukrainian border as an act against the United States.
That is especially odd given that Mr. Biden and his party — and a pretty sizable chunk of the pre-Trump Republican Party — have been content to watch the slow-motion invasion of our own southern border for most of the last 50 years. Last year, for example, about 10 divisions crossed the border each month. We did nothing.
I guess there’s no money for the weapons crowd in protecting our own border.
The fixation on Ukraine is also odd because we are under no legal or moral obligations to protect Ukraine, nor do we have any treaty obligations to Ukraine. No one has explained what American interest is at risk in Ukraine, nor has anyone explained why American lives or property should be put at risk in the event of a Russian invasion into one of its former provinces.
Mr. Biden has not even done us the courtesy of pretending to seek congressional approval for whatever he might have in mind.
There are a handful of border disputes underway on this planet at any given moment. There is a 100-year-old border dispute in Ireland. There are border disputes in Sudan, India, Gibraltar, etc. There is a border dispute on our southern border where pretty much everyone on the planet believes they have the right to enter our country at will.
There is an increasingly ominous border dispute between the Republic of Taiwan and Communist China. That one, and the one on our southern border, are most material to specific American interests and specific American legal and moral obligations.
It is not clear why this border dispute in a corner of Eastern Europe is worthy of our attention. As the great German prime minister Otto von Bismarck once noted: “The entire Balkans are not worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier.” Nor are they worth the bones of a single United States soldier or Marine.
Russia is not a material threat to the United States. With a GDP of less than $2 trillion, Russia’s economy is smaller than Canada’s. It is a country with deteriorating economics and demographics. The real and existential threat we face is from the Communist Chinese Party. Russia, and by extension Ukraine, is a sideshow.
Finally, we’ve just lost the longest and most pointless war in the history of our nation. Now is not the time for more foreign and military adventurism and yet another pointless war.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is a co-host of “The Unregulated” podcast. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.